- Hoover, Herbert.
Edited by George H. Nash.
Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 2011.
This book, begun in the days after the attack on Pearl
Harbor, became the primary occupation of former U.S.
president Herbert Hoover until his death in 1964. He
originally referred to it as the “War Book”
and titled subsequent draft manuscripts
Lost Statesmanship, The Ordeal of the
American People, and Freedom Betrayed,
which was adopted for this edition. Over the two decades
Hoover worked on the book, he and his staff came to
refer to it as the “Magnum
Opus”, and it is
magnum indeed—more than
950 pages in this massive brick of a hardcover edition.
The work began as an attempt to document how, in Hoover's
view, a series of diplomatic and strategic blunders
committed during the Franklin Roosevelt administration
had needlessly prompted Hitler's attack upon the Western
democracies, forged a disastrous alliance with Stalin,
and deliberately provoked Japan into attacking the U.S.
and Britain in the Pacific. This was summarised by Hoover
as “12 theses” in a 1946 memorandum to his
research assistant (p. 830):
…all right—eleven theses. As the years passed, Hoover
expanded the scope of the project to include what he saw as
the cynical selling-out of hundreds of millions of people in
nations liberated from Axis occupation into Communist slavery,
making a mockery of the principles espoused in the
and reaffirmed on numerous occasions and endorsed by other members
of the Allies, including the Soviet Union. Hoover puts the blame for
this betrayal squarely at the feet of Roosevelt and Churchill, and
documents how Soviet penetration of the senior levels of the Roosevelt
administration promoted Stalin's agenda and led directly
to the loss of China to Mao's forces and the Korean War.
As such, this is a massive work of historical revisionism which flies
in the face of the mainstream narrative of the origins of World War II
and the postwar period. But, far from the rantings of a crank, this
is the work of a former President of the United States, who, in his
career as an engineer and humanitarian work after World War I lived in
or travelled extensively through all of the countries involved in the
subsequent conflict and had high-level meetings with their governments.
(Hoover was the only U.S. president to meet with Hitler; the
contemporary notes from his 1938 meeting appear here starting on p. 837.)
Further, it is a scholarly examination of the period, with
extensive citations and excerpts of original sources. Hoover's
work in food relief in the aftermath of World War II provided additional
entrée to governments in that period and an on-the-ground
view of the situation as communism tightened its grip on Eastern
Europe and sought to expand into Asia.
The amount of folly chronicled here is astonishing, and
the extent of the human suffering it engendered is difficult to
comprehend. Indeed, Hoover's “just the facts” academic
style may leave you wishing he expressed more visceral anger at
all the horrible things that happened which did not have to.
But then Hoover was an engineer, and we engineers don't do
visceral all that well. Now, Hoover was far from immune from
in the Oval Office called him
“wonder boy” for his enthusiasm for grand
progressive schemes, and Hoover's mis-handling of the aftermath of the
1929 stock market crash turned what might have been a short and
deep recession into the First Great Depression and set the
stage for the New Deal. Yet here, I think Hoover the historian
pretty much gets it right, and when reading these words, last
revised in 1963, one gets the sense that the verdict of history
has reinforced the evidence Hoover presents here, even though
his view remains anathema in an academy almost entirely in the
thrall of slavers.
In the last months of his life, Hoover worked furiously to ready
the manuscript for publication; he viewed it as a large part of his
life's work and his final contribution to the history of the epoch.
After his death, the Hoover Foundation did not proceed to publish
the document for reasons which are now impossible to determine, since
none of the people involved are now alive. One can speculate that
they did not wish to embroil the just-deceased founder of their
institution in what was sure to be a firestorm of controversy as
he contradicted the smug consensus view of progressive historians
of the time, but nobody really knows (and the editor, recruited by the
successor of that foundation to prepare the work for publication,
either did not have access to that aspect of the story or opted not
to pursue it). In any case, the editor's work was massive: sorting
through thousands of documents and dozens of drafts of the work,
trying to discern the author's intent from pencilled-in marginal
notes, tracking down citations and verifying quoted material, and
writing an introduction of more than a hundred pages explaining the
origins of the work, its historical context, and the methodology
used to prepare this edition; the editing is a serious work of scholarship in
its own right.
If you're acquainted with the period, you're unlikely to learn
any new facts here, although Hoover's first-hand impressions
of countries and leaders are often insightful. In the decades
after Hoover's death, many documents which were under seal of
official secrecy have become available, and very few of them
contradict the picture presented here. (As a former president
with many military and diplomatic contacts, Hoover doubtless
had access to some of this material on a private basis, but
he never violated these confidences in this work.) What you will
learn from reading this book is that a set of facts can be
interpreted in more than one way, and that if one looks at the
events from 1932 through 1962 through the eyes of an observer
who was, like Hoover, fundamentally a pacifist, humanitarian,
and champion of liberty, you may end up with a very different
impression than that in the mainstream history books. What
the conventional wisdom deems a noble battle against evil
can, from a different perspective, be seen as a preventable
tragedy which not only consigned entire nations to slavery for
decades, but sowed the seeds of tyranny in the U.S. as the
welfare/warfare state consolidated itself upon the ashes of
limited government and individual liberty.
- War between Russia and Germany was inevitable.
- Hitler's attack on Western Democracies was only
to brush them out of his way.
- There would have been no involvement of Western
Democracies had they not gotten in his (Hitler's)
way by guaranteeing Poland (March, 1939).
- Without prior agreement with Stalin this constituted
the greatest blunder of British diplomatic history.
- There was no sincerity on either side of the Stalin-Hitler
alliance of August, 1939.
- The United States or the Western Hemisphere were never in
danger by Hitler.
- [This entry is missing in Hoover's typescript—ed.]
- This was even less so when Hitler determined to attack Stalin.
- Roosevelt, knowing this about November, 1940, had no
remote warranty for putting the United States in war to
“save Britain” and/or saving the United States
- The use of the Navy for undeclared war on Germany was
- There were secret military agreements with Britain probably
as early of January, 1940.
- The Japanese war was deliberately provoked. …